Imbolg is one of those strange grey areas. In some regions of the U.S. Winter has been raging on since november (I'm looking at you Buffalo) but in other areas- such as our local area of coastal Virginia, winter is really just starting to show her face. We had our first snow of the year this past weekend and will probably have one or two more snow events before we start to see the tides turn towards what I call 'true' spring. And I can imagine the Anceint Celts of Ireland and the British Isles who are much further North than any location in the United States, had perhaps an even longer wait.
So what then is Imbolg then? Why did the Anceint Celts consider it the beginning of Spring? And how can we observe it and make it relevant to us today? Well, I'm glad you asked because, I think I have all those answers ;)
Brief Overview of Imbolg
Imbolc is celebrated circa February 2nd and does in fact mark the beginning of the spring season. However, not so much in the way you'd think. We associate spring with the physical growth of nature, flowers springing up, trees growing their leaves back and the grass returning, when in reality those events are still about 6 weeks away.
The word Imbolg literally translates to "In Milk". It is during this time many stock animals, most notably sheep and cows, tend to give birth. When births occur, the milk starts flowing, and to our ancestors, this was a much needed reprieve. At this point the ancients would have been without milk for many months and the products they made from milk. They were also running low on food supplies. Milk brough hope. Hope that not only would they not starve to death but that true spring was nigh and the end of winter was finally coming. To the Ancients, the beginning of spring was marked when their animals gave birth.
Imbolg is also the sacred day of the Goddess Brigid. It is said she was fed from the sacred cow of the otherworld as an infant. Associated with fire and warmth of the growing sun, Brigid is the Goddess of Healing, Poetry, Smithcraft, Pregnancy & Childbirth. Her center was in Kildare Ireland where 19 priestess kept her sacred flame. When Christianity supplanted Paganism in Ireland, nuns overtook this task in the name of St. Brighid and the flame burned until the 16th century when it considered too pagan and the monastery was destroyed. However, in 1993 the flame was relit and burns to this day in Kildare Market Square. Pretty Amazing right? I made a stunning perfume to honor Brighid and all she stands for, get your bottle here.
Imbolg also holds a lot of purification lore as well. At the midpoint of winter it's a good idea to not only give the house a good cleaning and smudge after the holidays cluttered up the house, but it's a good time to purify yourself too. Give yourself a ritual purification bath, we made milk & honey bathbombs specifically for this purpose this year. By cleansing and purifying our homes we're banishing the banes of winter and welcoming in the spring.
The Lessons of Imbolg
Though the animals begin to stir heralding true spring's return, it is still very much winter. And though this sacred day gives us hope that soon we'll be able to plant again or at the very least open our windows for some fresh not freezing air, it's also telling us we have about 6 weeks left of winter rest. As I've talked about before, winter is the season of rest and introspection. Imbolg is telling us, the clock is ticking on this work. When we really take that to heart and really rest and examine ourselves-emotionally & spiritually and work on any goals that pertain to those realms, we can be ready to go in the spring. For me, this rest is stopping work and taking extra time to lay in bed and read. Extra time meditating and doing yoga. Lingering in the tub a while longer or taking more time in the morning to drink my coffee and read that article. We can be ready to clear and plant our gardens (real or metaphorical) & we can start vigorously working on our personal goals and head into pagan festival season spiritually refreshed and hopefully, grown.
* Leave a blanket out for Brighid to bless. Old lore states that old clothing was left out on Imbolg for Brighid to bless and divided up amongst the family for health. We have a quilt my great grandmother made as our Brigid blanket and when we're sick we use it to cover up with!
* Leave out butter milk and bread as an offering for Brigid
* Make a Brigid's Cross
* Make a Corn Dolly & Bride's Bed
* Make and/or Bless candles for the coming year
* Rededicate yourself to your path
* Light a white candle and burn sandalwood incense. Candles are typically lit in profusion on Imbolg to call back the sun and light the way for spring. We made some beautiful Imbolg candles, you can find them here.
* Cleanse your altar and equipment, do a self-purification rite with the elemental tools representing earth (salt) for body, air (incense) for thoughts; fire (candle flame) for will; and water (water) for emotions.
Honor Brighid and Light the way for Spring, Wild Ones.
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